Linked sails, banners, upside down umbrellas - whatever Whangarei citizens think of when they look at the new canopy over the John St bridge, they love it.
Now the canopy has a fan base far beyond the north, winning an international award for makers Fabric Structure Systems (FSS).
The Whangarei company scored a stunning double at the recent annual awards of Australasian group, the Lightweight Structures Association, taking awards for best structure under 250sq m with the bridge canopy; and best structure between 5000-10,000sq m for The Cloud, 174-m iconic heart of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland.
The association is made up of a wide range of professionals working internationally in the field, including engineers, architects, designers and fabricators.
Co-director of Fabric Structure Systems Warwick Bell, responsible for concept and design work, said the Whangarei District Council contract was a dream job giving him free rein from whoa to go.
"It was such a fantastic opportunity," Mr Bell says. "I was just told, 'design us something wonderful'.
"It's rare not to have to negotiate your way through a range of inputs from other people."
The canopy was erected within a fortnight by a team led by FSS employee Isaac McCormick, who also worked on the The Cloud (built for under $3 million).
FSS used revolutionary French-made fabric ETFE for the end walls of The Cloud, a long-lasting clear material described as "flexible glass".
PVC was used for The Cloud's billowing roof, and for the John St canopy. Another Whangarei-based firm, Culham Engineering, did the steel fabrication for the canopy (and the 30m high steel ferns placed around street frontage of Eden Park's new South Stadium).
The portfolio of the multi-award winning FSS also includes design of the giant Rugby Ball venue/video centre commissioned by Tourism New Zealand before the previous Rugby World Cup to publicise the 2011 event in Paris, London and Tokyo; the canopy over the Sydney Aviary; the Louis Vuitton "suitcase party venue"; a huge inflatable pot plant for Christchurch's arts festival (pre-earthquake).
Mr Bell says its immensely rewarding to see growing appreciation of the visual appeal and durability of long-life PVC canopies in Whangarei, which include the roof of the new stadium. Pleased as he was with the latest accolades for FSS, he can't claim to be surprised.
Way back in August when the John St bridge canopy suddenly transformed vistas in the Town Basin area Mr Bell had said: "I'm pretty sure this is a winner."